It’s hard being a writer. Writing is possibly one of the most challenging and potentially soul destroying ways to make your living. You give up your time and your creativity for (often) not very much money and a byline (if you’re lucky).
A lot of Dads out there want to make it as a writer. Particularly if you work from home or are a stay-at-home Dad. Others just don’t like their day job or have fallen into writing out of necessity.
I have a confession: I don’t know how to be a successful writer. I haven’t figured that out yet. Rest assured when I do I’ll tell you all about it.
Do These Things and I Guarantee You Will not Succeed – Or Your Money Back
But I do know what it’s like to fail. To put work and time into being a writer and ultimately walk away from it because it didn’t work out.
I’d hate to live with regrets. I believe that things can happen for a reason. So I’m not bitter but neither do I deny this experience. After all, our life events create who we are.
So I’ve collected five things that you can do to positively ensure you will fail as a freelance writer. If you implement these I can guarantee that you will not succeed – or you’re money back.
1. Don’t take risks
Being too cautious is a sure fire way to fail at most things. Writing is no exception. Not taking risks will ultimately hamper your progress. Those who will take risks will take your work instead.
One major mistake I made was not taking on enough work. I was scared that if I bid for too much work I might get it and then I’d be stuck because I’d need to deliver.
This scarcity mindset actively hindered my progress and success. I didn’t think I had enough time to put into my writing, even though I wanted it to take off.
I didn’t start a blog as I saw it as being too much work. And I would need to post something every week. What a drag!
Instead I was waiting around for the ‘big break’ instead of working as much as I could. I should have:
Taken on more work than I thought I could cope with
Spent time visualising what it would take to be a successful writer
Ignored the next four tips
2. Don’t have confidence in your abilities as a writer
Successful people have unshakable belief in their ability to succeed. They have abundant confidence that they will win through, no matter what.
I, on the other hand, expected to be exposed as a fraud at any time. ‘You’re not a real writer. You’re just some guy with a laptop and a few ideas’.
I would set up leads or stories but not follow through because I was worried I’d be recognised as a phony.
Even when the editor of a major print Mixed Martial Arts magazine gave me his number and asked me to call, I was too timid. I sent him a couple of weak emails and left it at that.
Self Professed Failure is a Self Fulfilled Prophecy
A UFC fighter said she’d give me an interview at her gym. I never followed up. Why? Because I didn’t believe that I was good enough to cover that story. And who would buy it? The irony is that she’s now a big success and I could have sold that story several times over.
Writing this now makes me cringe. What was I thinking?
Do you see how a negative mindset can affect your potential for success? You will not succeed until you believe that you can. Self professed failure is a self fulfilling prophecy.
3. Don’t sell yourself cheap
One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve seen on writing was in a ‘How to be a successful Freelance Writer’ book that a well meaning person had bought for me.
The author advised that a writer should never write for free as it cheapens your art. Which is a load of rubbish. My biggest single break as a writer came from offering my services free of charge.
But one mistake I made was that I wouldn’t write for low rates. I’m not talking about being a ‘Content Monkey’ for $3 per 1000 words but lower paid freelance work. On the now defunct Elance, I wouldn’t figuratively get out of bed for less than $0.10 a word.
Looking back, that was foolish. Freelancers trade their time for money but if you don’t have anything else to do then you always lose. If you have a solid portfolio of work, you’ll likely pick up more until you can charge decent money.
Until you’re in a position where you can turn down work, don’t.
4. Always write for other people
If you never want to succeed, always write for other people. Never write what about what you want. And never write just for the love of it.
My first project was a politics blog using Blogger. I wrote a story about Libya and it went viral. I got 14000 views. Who read it? I have no idea. I wrapped it up soon after I started to get paid for writing. I thought that if I was going to write, I might as well do it for money.
I wrote over 60 articles for a content generation site, mostly between 400-500 words. That site went bust and I lost all my articles and the advertising revenue with it. Great.
If I’d started a new blog after I wrapped up the first one, it would still be running. I’d have readers and maybe a bit of revenue coming in. I could have compiled my posts into an e-book and diverted potential clients to it to see examples of my work. In the words of Victor Pride
‘The best time to start a blog is 4 years ago. The second best time is today.’
5. Don’t send your agent anything worthy of publishing
I took evening classes on writing. These were great in that I got loads of practice and my tutor offered to act as my agent. All I needed to do was send her pieces or stories and she’d find a publisher. Sounds great. What a break!
Except I didn’t. I don’t think I sent her a single thing. A missed opportunity. Most writers can only dream of having an agent. I ended up with one almost by accident and took it for granted.
What I should have done was work on a few quality pieces and send them to her for feedback. I would have learned a lot from the experience and maybe even got the coveted byline.
This post might seem negative. And possibly its a bit of personal therapy for me. Sometimes you learn things the easy way and sometimes you learn them the hard or the very hard way. I wish that I could have read something like this 5 years ago.
It wasn’t all bad and I learned a lot on the journey (see above). I was good at networking and getting ‘ins’ with people. The writing that I did got good feedback and if you’ve read to this point in the post, you obviously think it’s ok.
These would be my tips if you’re starting out as a writer/freelancer:
Do the opposite of the five points above
Be bold. Write to people and offer your services
Become a networking machine, starting with your Dad network
Do it for the love – it will be a while before you can do it for the money
P.S. Are you a new or aspiring writer. Have you been writing for a few years? Post your stories and tips in the comments below.